Theo Epstein: Jake Arrieta’s Work Ethic, Dominance Vaulted Cubs Into Championship Phase

(CBS) Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein doesn’t know how right-hander Jake Arrieta’s free agency will play out this offseason.

He just knows what Arrieta has meant to the Cubs since they acquired him from the Orioles in July 2013. Arrieta’s influence has gone far beyond his on-field success, which includes a 2015 National League Cy Young award and an MLB-best 54 wins across the past three seasons.

“He’s just been fundamental to everything we’ve done here,” Epstein said on the Bernstein and Goff Show on Thursday afternoon before the Cubs were eliminated by the Dodgers later in the evening.

“Obviously, his performance, his production have been huge for us. And beyond that, his dominance — which really started toward the second half of ’14 and obviously carried through into ’15 — allowed us to get a little more aggressive in that winter following the ’14 season, landing a Jon Lester, Joe Maddon and Dexter Fowler and others to really start a new phase of competitiveness for us. And then his impact on the culture here has been equally as important. He’s someone who is always trying to make himself better, carries himself with a lot of swagger and backs it up and really his desire, his mindset is to find an edge in everything that he does — nutrition, working out, mental preparation. It really rubbed off on guys, especially seeing what he did in ’15. When you have a guy who’s that exceptional and singularly talented over the course of a season, the 24 guys just want to follow him around and see what he’s doing.”

Arrieta, who turns 32 next March, will enter free agency in several weeks. It’s expected that he’ll be priced out of the Cubs’ preferred range, with some observers believing he’s likely to receiver offers in the range of four to six years at around $25 million annually.

Whether he returns or not, Arrieta won’t be forgotten. He leaves a championship legacy.

“His approach to the game, his life rubs off on others,” Epstein said. “Truthfully, it really rubbed off on the whole organization and helped get us to another level.”

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